Back to the basics – Cirque du Soleil, Kooza

KoozaIt seems like yesterday I saw Cirque du Soleil‘s masterpiece, Corteo. But that was two years ago now … my how time flies. It’s enough time, however, to make me jones for another spectacular show that only Cirque du Soleil can deliver.

When tickets for Kooza, Cirque’s latest touring show, went on sale back in the spring, I was online, credit card in hand and ready to pay a good penny for premium seats. Cirque is one of the few things I will pay top $ for without knowing anything about the show.

I’m a Cirque fanatic and proud of it. I’ve seen every touring show that has made it’s way through Toronto – dating back to 1986, I believe.

So on Friday night, my boyfriend and I headed down to the Portlands – where Cirque has planted itself this year after years at Ontario Place. I always get a rush when I see the Grand Chapiteau set up in all it’s blue and yellow striped glory. One of my favourite parts of going to Cirque is walking up the stairs into the tent and seeing the set for the first time. Corteo changed the entire seating of the tent by running the stage horizontally across the width of the tent, but Kooza has placed the circular stage back in the centre. There were no huge mechanical set pieces hanging from the top of the tent like Varekai, no set pieces coming out from the back of the stage. At first glance, this show looked much simpler than previous Cirque shows.

As per usual, the clowns came out into the audience before the show began causing mayhem and laughter as they interacted with the unsuspecting onlookers. I always enjoy this part of the show as it puts everyone in the mood and breaks down the fourth wall.

And then, “Mesdames et monsieurs. Welcome to Cirque du Soleil!” The announcer officially began the show and then blackout. The world we were transported to once the lights came back up on the stage was a mysterious, child-like world of innocence, hilarity and heart-pounding exhilaration! I’ll justs give you a few highlights here:

The contortionists were mind-blowing! I’ve never seen anyone bend and twist in so many different ways. These three young girls were absolutely jaw-dropping. They moved across their rotating platform bending around each other and creating beautifully symmetrical shapes with such ease and agility – they made it look like this was the easiest thing in the whole world. As the first act, they certainly set the standard for the rest of the show.

Act 1 ended with the most amazing tight-rope walkers I have ever seen. There were two tight ropes – one about 20 feet off the ground, the other, about 40 feet. Four men ascended to the various levels and began jumping and skipping rope with no safety net or safety harnesses … but the most terrifying part was when the four of them ended up on the top rope. Two bikes descended from the top of the tent and were placed on the tight rope one at each end. One man got on the bike and rode backwards to meet up with the other bike rider who attached himself to the backward biker via a shoulder harness with a 10 foot bar between them. Then, a third man climbs on top of the bar with a chair in hand, balances the chair on the bar, connected to the men sitting on bikes on a rope 40 feet in the air … confused yet? The third man sits on the chair and the three of them ride out into the centre of the rope when the chair man then stands up on the chair balancing on the bar … and sits back down. It was terrifying. The woman sitting next to me put her face in her hands and was shaking her head mumbling “No no no …” I don’t blame her. I couldn’t believe what I was watching myself. Especially with no safety net or harnesses. The applause when they finished their act was deafening.

Act 2 began with a bang as two brave souls conquered the Death Wheel. The two massive cylinders, attached on an axis in the middle, was lowered from the top of the tent. One of the performers jumped into one of the wheel and ran back and forth inside it causing the entire contraption to begin to spin from the stage floor to the top of the tent in one giant circle. After getting the whole wheel moving, the other performer grabbed hold of one the spinning wheels and jumped in helping the wheel to spin the wheel faster and faster. Eventually the performers were jumping up as the wheel hit the crest and went into a free fall on the descent finally catching themselves as the wheel spun around and began climbing up again. It was a sight to behold. Of course, they didn’t stop there. To heighten the tension a tad, one of the performers swung out and onto to the top of said spinning wheel, walking on top of the cylinder and then, of course, skipping rope, doing jumps, free falling … you know, the usual.

They received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the act.

Overall, the show was wonderfully entertaining, but very simplistic in comparison to past Cirque shows. The performers were more front and centre and the acts were well chosen. The music was wonderful and really added to the excitement of the performances.

My only criticism, if any, was after all the exhilarating acts, the last act of the show ended on a rather “ho-hum” note. The final act – the teeterboard – has been used in other Cirque shows. While performed wonderfully by the acrobats, it lacked the sense of finality of many other Cirque performances like Varekai or Quidam.

Having said that, I still walked away with a feeling of exhilaration and excitement after having witnessed the magic that is Cirque. For those of you who have never seen a Cirque show – go! For those of you who have but haven’t seen Kooza – go! The show’s been extended until October 21, so there’s still time, but tickets go fast!

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